How to choose the best divorce mediator

By Marcus Sixta, BC and Alberta Family Lawyer, Mediator and Collaborative Lawyer and Former Social Worker

Choosing a mediator is a difficult decision. If you speak to any family lawyer, they will have different opinions on the attributes and skills of a divorce mediator. Some mediators are known for a particular style or process that can either been seen as a positive or a negative depending on who you ask.

Some mediators put an emphasis on the process and like to do things a certain way. This can be good in cases where there is a high level of animosity and distrust as the parties may not be able to agree on how to get the discussion started or even where to sit in the room. However, many other separating couples like to have more say in how mediation is conducted.

For example, some mediators are very reluctant to allow the parties to break out into separate rooms, preferring that everyone stay at the same table throughout the process as this reduces miscommunication and can foster a feeling of working together. However, some people much prefer shuttle mediation where the mediator moves between two rooms presenting offers and counter offers so that the parties only have to come together infrequently. This can reduce tension and power imbalances in high conflict cases.

Mediators can also be called directive and some separating couples like this quality. A directive mediator will put forward settlement options and give the parties more insight into how a claim may go if it goes to court. This can be appreciated when budgets are tight, and a speedy resolution is being sought. On the other hand, many parties like to collaborate more without too much insight from the mediator in order to develop solutions that work for their specific family and many academics say that this approach to mediation is preferred as increases long term acceptance of the outcome.

Cost can also be a major factor. While the most experienced mediators often come with the highest hourly rates, this can be worth the price when you are also getting a divorce mediator who has developed and honed their skills to increase the chance of success. However, a high hourly rate does not always mean more experience as some senior lawyers may be new to mediation but still charge top dollar.

It is also important to ask questions about a mediator’s background as some may come with other useful skills and experience including counselling, social work and financial planning. Mediators with a background in social work may be more adept as dealing with abuse, family violence or parenting issues, while others with a financial planning background may be better at facilitating discussions about family businesses, tax planning and future financial planning.

Some divorce mediators may also have flat fees for their services, but make sure to ask about the limits of flat rates as often hourly rates will kick in if a certain time threshold is passed. Also, some mediators will draft separation agreements when a resolution is achieved, but there can be significant extra costs for this so be sure to ask at the beginning of the process.

There are many divorce mediators out there and each one comes with a different set of skills and experiences. When choosing a mediator think about the issues above but remember that the right mediator can’t just be the right one for you. If your former spouse is unhappy with the mediator, success is unlikely. Therefore, choosing a mediator that is a good fit for BOTH sides is key.

If you are looking for a mediator in B.C. or Alberta, Crossroads Law provides mediators who can conduct in person or remote mediations for all family law disputes. Our mediators have extensive training and are also experienced in family law litigation, so they know the law. If you are interested in booking a mediation, contact us now for more information.

The information contained in this blog is not legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject. The information provided in this blog is for informational purposes only.